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“My Name Is,” in German and More

So how exactly do you say “My name is,” in German? And more importantly, why should you know this?

If you travel, you’re probably going to end up making small talk at some point. And if you’re studying another language and traveling to the place where they speak that language, this is going to happen a lot. It’s happened to me many, many times.

I’ve been very lucky to travel a lot, to countries all over the world. It turns out that no matter where you go, you’re going to find people who are interested in your story. Especially in Germany, because there aren’t tons of foreigners who end up speaking German at a high level.

They want to know who you are, where you’re from, and why you’re learning their language. Natural questions, really. Funnily enough, they usually tend to ask the questions in the same ways. It’s almost like a script.

Fortunately, I’ve rattled off this script so many times that I can do it in my sleep. And each time you do it, you get better and sound more impressive to the next person who asks you.

So let’s take a look at these questions. I’ve broken them down into six handy main topics, and inside each one I’ve included a couple of different questions that I’ve been asked.

You’ll learn how to introduce yourself, say where you come from, describe your job, your hobbies, and your family, say what you’re doing in Germany, and finally say what motivates you to learn German in the first place. So essentially, you’ll learn all you need to know about talking about yourself in German.

I’m going to use informal German here for most cases, just because that’s what I usually experience as a younger man. It’s very likely that, depending on who you are and where you go, you’ll be addressed mostly with Sie instead of du.

So let’s get on with it! Learn all about introducing yourself in the German language with GermanPod101.com!

Table of Contents

  1. Who are You?
  2. Where are You From?
  3. How’s the Family?
  4. What are You Doing Here?
  5. What Do You Like to Do?
  6. Why are You Learning German?
  7. Conclusion

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1. Who are You?

Man Hiding Identity

  • Who are you?
    (Wer bist du?)

Okay, nobody’s actually going to ask that. Not in those words, anyway. That’s far too blunt and direct, even for a people famous for their directness.

Instead they’ll start with something much simpler.

  • What’s your name?
    (Wie heißt du?)

Literally they’re saying “What do you call?” which makes zero sense when translated, but it helps more to think of it like “What do you call yourself?”

The answer is a piece of cake. Here’s some easy German to introduce yourself:

  • My name is Yassir.
    (Ich heisse Yassir.)

Another common way to introduce yourself in German is:

  • I’m Yassir.
    (Ich bin Yassir.)

When it comes to personal information, you should know how to talk about your age. It’s not something that’s likely to come up in conversation, but if it appears on a form or in a more formal setting, then you’ll be prepared.

The question comes in this form:

  • How old are you?
    (Wie alt bist du?)

It’s easy to see how close the German language can be to English. And the answer is a real piece of cake.

  • I’m twenty-six years old.
    (Ich bin sechsundzwanzig Jahre alt.)

With that out of the way, people usually start asking about your life. Below is some information on more phrases to introduce yourself in German.


2. Where are You From?

Picture of Earth

Where are you from?
Woher kommst du?

Note that in German we have to ask (and usually answer) in the form, “Where do you come from.” There are two really common ways to answer:

  • I come from Russia.
    Ich komme aus Russland.
  • I’m an American.
    Ich bin Amerikaner.

The second one’s a little bit more formal and distant—and thus may not be the best way to introduce yourself in German—but it’ll save you if you panic and forget that the preposition for “come from” is aus and not one of German’s many other prepositions.

Perhaps your interlocutor is familiar with your home country, and asks:

  • Which city in Spain?
    Welche Stadt in Spanien?
  • Bilbao. Have you been there?
    Bilbao. Warst du schon da?

And from that point, your conversation is on a roll.

Some people—many people, really—have moved cities or even countries as they’ve gotten older. If that’s the case for you, you can use the verb wohnen, meaning “to live in.”

  • I live in Munich now.
    Jetzt wohne ich in München.

Here it’s easy to see that adding the word jetzt, meaning “now,” causes the verb to jump in front of the subject. That sort of syntax stuff is pretty easy to pick up through examples, so keep on reading this article for more!

Lots of Germans have traveled around Europe or even the world. If you’re talking to someone who’s done lots of traveling before, they’ve almost certainly had to answer these questions too. It’s a nice change for them to be asking!


3. How’s the Family?

Family Eating Outside

How’s the family?
Wie ist deine familie?

Actually, Germans don’t tend to bring up this question. If you’re chatting about other things and your family comes up, however, then it may be a good idea to be familiar with these phrases.

Perhaps you mentioned something about fighting with your sisters when you were younger. In that case, you may be asked something like:

  • Do you have a lot of siblings?
    Hast du viele Geschwister?

This is an excellent opening for you to say something in the neighborhood of:

  • Yeah, I have a brother and two sisters.
    Ja, ich habe einen Bruder und zwei Schwestern.

From there it’s pretty easy to adopt other small-talk or introduction phrases to describe your family members as well.

  • My mother is a lawyer.
    Meine Mutter ist Juristin.
  • My sister lives in Hungary.
    Meine Schwester wohnt in Ungarn.


4. What are You Doing Here?

Couple on Holiday

What are you doing here?
Was machst du hier?

Again, that’s a pretty literal translation and not something you’re likely to hear in a hostel or in a train car.

Germans are polite! They’re going to ask politely about what brought you to such-and-such a place and what you’re doing there.

Let’s assume here that you’re on a vacation in a German-speaking country. It’s just as likely that you’re there on business or that you live there, but as there’s just so much for a tourist to see in Germany it only makes sense to orient the guide in that direction.

Why You’re Here

You should probably respond with a little about the trip that you’re on. How long you’re traveling for, how long you’re staying in that city, and what you’d like to see.

  • I’m here on vacation.
    Ich bin hier im Urlaub.
  • I’m just here for a couple of days.
    Ich bin nur für ein paar Tage hier.

Conversations take two people. For that reason you should definitely know how to ask a couple of questions.

Of course, when they’re asking you different things, you can simply flip the same question around on them by asking Und du? Literally “And you?”

But what if you have a new question? As an example, let’s say you’re asking for recommendations.

  • What should I see here? / What should I see in (Basel)?
    Was soll ich hier sehen? / Was soll ich in (Basel) sehen?

That’s perfect to keep the conversation going and maybe even find out about some cool local trips.

Once you’ve finished discussing the joys of travel, the conversation may turn back to you. And it’ll become even more handy to know some words to describe yourself in German, particularly your career.

  • What do you do for a living?
    Was machst du beruflich?

Actually, if you’re relatively young-looking, a lot of Germans will start with the question bist du noch Student/Studentin? This means “Are you still a student?” A question like that just goes to show how much Germans value education and how many people take advantage of the university system there.

It’s pretty simple to answer this question, though there’s something that can trip you up if you try to overthink it.

Normally in German the structure for talking about what you are is the same as in English, word-for-word.

  • I am a man.
    Ich bin ein Mann.

But when it comes to jobs, that article ein/eine is dropped entirely.

  • I am a writer.
    Ich bin Schriftsteller.

Remember that virtually every job title in German has a male and female version. Women answering this question should say Ich bin Schriftstellerin—and pretty much all female job titles end in -in.

If you don’t have a nice and simple job title, you can just say where you work. In German we use the preposition bei for saying you work at so-and-so company.

  • I work at Google.
    Ich arbeite bei Google.

Now let’s move on to hobbies.


5. What Do You Like to Do?

Man Playing Guitar

What do you like to do?
Was machen sie gerne?

Something tells me that you’re interested in both travel and languages. I dunno, just a hunch.

  • I enjoy learning languages.
    Ich lerne gern Sprachen.

Without a doubt, you’ll get people asking about just how far you’ve taken that interest.

  • So how many languages do you know?
    Also wie viele Sprachen kannst du?

Even if you’re not too proud of your pronunciation or grammar, you can and should include German on the list. If it’s clear that your speaking partner is being patient with you because of your low level, it’s better to be a little humble with your answer.

  • I speak English, Polish, Arabic, and a little German.
    Ich spreche Englisch, Polnisch, Arabisch, und ein bisschen Deutsch.

You may sometimes see others’ language ability described with the verb beherrschen.

  • She speaks six languages fluently.
    Sie beherrscht sechs Sprachen fliessend.

That’s a pretty formal verb and it also implies a great mastery over the languages. You might use it on a resume or to talk about other people, but it’s a bit presumptuous to use it to describe yourself.

Perhaps you’re not a linguist and have other interests in life. Strange as that may be, in that case you can talk about your hobbies or your interests.

  • I like going to art museums.
    Ich besuche Kunstmuseen gern.

This structure is a fantastically easy way to describe something that you like to do in German. Just say that thing—“I go to museums”—and add the word gern to express the idea that doing so is enjoyable.

There’s another way that you can say this, and that’s by using the verb mögen, or “to like,” combined with the noun form of the activity. Easier shown than said:

  • I like photography.
    Ich mag Photographie.


6. Why are You Learning German?

Hamburg

Why are you learning German?
Warum lernst du Deutsch?

Ahhh, the big question. Why would you learn this language? I mean, enough Germans speak English that it’s a good sign of your ability if this question was asked in German!

And this is where guides can’t take you all the way. Every person’s history with German is going to be different.

Lucky for you, there’s no wrong answer to this question. Many Germans feel that more people should learn German, and many others are simply surprised and pleased that someone would do so.

Perhaps you’re learning because your family members were ethnically German or spoke the language at home.

  • My mother came from Austria.
    Meine Mutter kam aus Österreich.

Maybe you’re really interested in European history or enjoy traveling around.

  • I really like German art history.
    Ich mag die deutsche Kunstgeschichte sehr gern.

Or it could be that you have a fascination with German music or film.

  • I find the music of Brahms absolutely breathtaking.
    Ich finde die Musik von Brahms absolut atemberaubend.

All of these are valid answers!

One of the classic questions when talking about languages is how much time you’ve spent on it. Most people take classes for many years and often never really get to a good level. They’re simply curious how long you’ve been into it to get to the level that you’re at.

Here’s a typical way this conversation could play out.

  • How long have you been learning German?
    Wie lange lernst du schon Deutsch?
  • A little longer than… (a year, a month…)
    Ein bisschen mehr als… (ein Jahr, ein Monat…)
  • Then you already speak very well!
    Dafür sprichst du sehr gut!

The word dafür there literally means “for that.” It’s kind of like saying “in that case” or “taking that into account…” Those phrases can sometimes sound a bit rude in English, but not so in German. It’s a pure compliment.


7. Conclusion

Talking about yourself is just one tiny bit of knowing a foreign language, but it’s something you’ll need to do at any level.

Hopefully this article has shown you a couple of reasons why it doesn’t have to be anything to worry about!

On the whole, German speakers are kind and patient when it comes to speaking with learners of their language. I’ve had nothing but excellent experiences traveling in and around three different German-speaking countries.

So whenever you’re ready to take the plunge and move into conversational German, be ready to talk about yourself! And let GermanPod101.com help you along every step of the way by visiting our site and using our effective resources, including free vocab lists and our MyTeacher app!

Author: Yassir Sahnoun is a HubSpot certified content strategist, copywriter and polyglot who works with language learning companies. He helps companies attract sales using content strategy, copywriting, blogging, email marketing & more.

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